Monday, July 16, 2012

Hey mom, to answer your question about service there is no set number of hours to do it but we are encouraged to do it a bunch. We do like 2 planned service hours a week. Pittsfield does like 8 though. So it just depends. We usually do service during bad hours of the day when no one is home and we have nothing else to do.

That clip from Coles email was kinda sad. One thing that I think he will realize soon though is that it doesn’t matter what your companion does. As long as you are doing your very best to do the work. Having a companion who talks about his girlfriend all the time is the most annoying thing ever. But what’s so good about each companion is that you can learn what not to do. God always gives us our trials to help us learn. Having such a young district right now has been fun but kinda rough. Everyone is so young that they always want to talk about what they did back home. It makes it kinda hard to focus on what we are supposed to be doing right now. I am really thankful for Elder Jensen and my zone leader Elder Young because they really taught me how to talk about home without being annoying. There is a time and a place for everything. I have been VERY blessed to have the companions that I have had and the missionaries around me that I have been around. They have been exactly what I needed at the time I needed them.

This week was by far the most insane week of my mission. I had some of the greatest joy I have seen so far at the beginning of the week, but then the end of the week really tested us. I will start by going over the good stuff. On Tuesday I got permission to text Caitlin. Elder Jensen and I helped her to get baptised then she moved away just a few days after. I had been super curious about how she was doing and we aren’t allowed to text anyone outside of our area without permission. So I finally got around to getting it approved and talking to her again was awesome. It just made me so happy to hear about how awesome she is doing. She is moving back to Jacksonville soon and she is still strong in the church. The coolest thing is that she is probably the shyest person I have ever met. But she told me about how she felt prompted to bear her testimony to a couple of her friends and now they are coming to church with her. Finding out how awesome she is doing made me so happy.

The next awesome thing that happened this week was on Friday I drove Elder Cooper down to St Louis so we could both go to leadership conference. Going to St Louis is always super fun especially when we get to go to big meetings with a bunch of missionaries. When we showed up the first person I saw was Elder Barney and it was way fun to get to talk to him again. And then for me probably the best part of the entire conference was getting to see Elder Jensen again. It was so much fun. It was cool because it was like we never switched companions. The second that we started talking it was way funny and it was just awesome to get to talk to him again. I am excited for the super activity that is coming up soon so that all of the missionaries can be together and I can still be with my companion. In addition to all of the fun stuff that happened there we also had a lot of really good meetings. I turned to Elder Cooper when they handed out the schedule for the day and said "This is only a 6 hour meeting? That’s not bad at all" Definitely not something that I ever thought I would say. But after the 6 hours I had learned a lot and it really helped to put a lot of the things we do as missionaries into perspective.

One other crazy thing that happened at the beginning of the week was out investigator Booker had a heart attack and died, but then he came back to life. He is kinda a crazy dude who maybe isn’t all the way there but his story sounded pretty real. It has been kinda cool because it has really helped him to start progressing again because he says that God sent him back to this earth to finish something. And God told him to listen to us because what we are sharing with him is important. Hopefully that helps him to really grasp everything that we are teaching him.

Now on to the not so great part of the week. A couple weeks ago I said that I couldn’t remember the last time I was really stressed. And that was true I have really learned to handle stress pretty well out here. But then God decided to humble me a little bit and sent some trials our way this weekend. This weekend was Carlos' baptism. Saturday morning we got a call from our bishop telling us that he had just gotten off the phone with Carlos' mom and that she was furious. Threatening to put us all in jail and kick Carlos out and sue the church and a bunch of other stuff. Most of which she really has no power to do, but still threats aren’t a missionaries favorite thing to hear. A few minutes after that we decided to pray to know what to do. During and right after the prayer I had a really strong impression that we needed to go to the church. So, stressed out of our minds we headed over to the church. Carlos has no way to get a hold of us because he doesn’t have a cell phone and doesn’t have our cell number memorized. He isn’t very big into technology so his house phone is pretty much everything he has and his mom took complete control over that. Thankfully he looked up the church’s number in the phone book and called it while we were sitting at the church wondering why we were supposed to go there. We talked to him and he said don’t cancel anything because I really want to go through with this still. Everything went pretty smoothly the rest of that day. He got baptized and it was a good service. He bore his testimony and sang happy birthday to himself over the pulpit and sang some song about a horse. It was definitely not a baptismal service that I will ever forget. After the service he was super worried about having to go home and face his less than stable mom. But he promised us that he would make it to church the next day no matter what. We showed up at church the next day pretty early and didn’t see him. We weren’t too worried at first but then as it got closer and closer to the meeting getting started we started to worry. We had no way to contact him because we go to jail if we step foot on his mom’s property or call his house.

As you have probably guessed Carlos never showed up to church. He never got the Gift of the Holy Ghost and we haven’t been able to contact him since then. The sick feeling that I had during sacrament meeting is impossible to explain. The pain of having someone get so close but then get stopped by someone they love is horrible. Carlos' mom is not healthy. Without Carlos living in the house with her she would die. Unfortunately she doesn’t realize that. She threatens to have him kicked out of the house if he ever comes to church again. It is so hard to see Carlos who loves his mom so much have to deal with so much hate and anger coming from her. We don’t really have any idea what’s going to happen from here. We hope and pray that Carlos can get in contact with us somehow and let us know what’s going on. But one thing that does bring me joy and hope is knowing that just like Kodie (who i found out is living in Iowa somewhere now) Carlos will be baptized at some point in his life and we will get to be with him in the Celestial kingdom. Satan has powerful tools on this earth. As I have seen far too clearly and far too many times on my mission already, family members and friends can destroy a person’s spiritual progress in the blink of an eye. The knowledge that we have that God will work everything out and no matter what happens is the greatest gift that He could every give. It doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it bearable.

After the pretty rough week we had this week we are excited to get a new start today. We are going up to Springfield to go bowling with the zone and we are pretty excited about that. Tuesday we get to go to the temple which of course we are thrilled about. Then on Wednesday and Thursday I am headed up to Pittsfield again. So this week should go by pretty quick. Even though sometimes things get rough here we know that we are blessed a ton. We currently have 4 baptism dates and 3 investigators that have said they want to be baptised all we have to do is decide on a day. It’s hard to explain how amazing that is. God has blessed us more than we can even explain. Jacksonville could see more baptisms in the next month than most missionaries in this mission see in their 2 years. Odds are that me or Elder Anderson will get transferred before most of these baptisms actually happen, but something that I learned at leadership is that the "What’s" of missionary work are baptisms and the numbers. The "Why" of missionary work is bringing people one step closer to eternal salvation. Whether I see these people get baptised or not it really doesn’t matter at all. Knowing that I have been a tool in God’s hands to bring these people back to Him is more rewarding than anything else I could ever do. I love all of you and I will talk to you again next week.

-Elder Banks

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